Ginger is one of the most widely used herbs in the world. We use the root of a plant native to Asia but today cultivated in the West Indies, Jamaica, and Africa. Francisco de Mendosa introduced ginger to Spain in the early 1500's (and from there to the new world) but its value was known in the far east long before that.
Ginger is technically a tuber that creeps and grows underground. The stalk grows to be at least two feet tall. When it dies in the fall, the tuber is dug up, dried, and ground into the herb powder most commonly known. Uncoated or white ginger was washed and scraped to prevent sprouting. Some like the whiteness and thus it has been bleached or limed to achieve greater whiteness. This results in a loss of nutritional value. Coated or black ginger means the root was not peeled but immediately scalded after harvesting.
Chemicals in ginger that give it value include volatile oil (up to 3%), acrid soft resin, lignin, gum, starch, vegeto matter, asmazone, acetic acid, potassium acetate, and sulphur.
Ginger is a traditional Asian medicine used to treat nausea. For some ginger is more effective in relieving motion sickness than Dramamine. Some expectant mothers report relief from nausea after consuming small amounts of ginger ale, ginger root or, ginger tea. Cancer victims have found relief from chemotherapy related nausea when ingesting ginger in large quantities. It will fight body odor, promote perspiration, and stimulate appetite.
Ginger also helps treat joint pain by stimulating blood circulation, so it is used to treat illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis and Raynaud's syndrome. Externally ginger causes redness of the skin.
Often ginger is used in the treatment of indigestion, flatulence, menstrual cramps and diarrhea and relieves gastrointestinal distress. It is effective because it copies some digestive enzymes used to process protein in the body.
Ginger aids the heart as well. Only five grams of dried ginger a day will slow the production of triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol in the liver. Ginger also prevents platelets from sticking together. This decreases the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Ginger is sometimes recommended for relief of cold symptoms for it is said to loosen phlegm and fight chills by spreading a warm feeling throughout the body. Many simply like to use it in cooking as a seasoning or a tea. One recipe for gingersnap cookies calls for a teaspoon of the powder.
Ginger is available in capsules, pickles, extracts, and prepared teas that can be made into compresses. The ginger root may also be consumed raw, but avoid small, wrinkled, or soft tubers. Steep ginger in hot water to make a tea, or just add it to a variety of dishes. The usual dosage is 1/3 of an ounce of fresh ginger root per day. Preserved Ginger is made by steeping the root in hot syrup. Store ginger root dry in your refrigerator for short periods. You can also freeze ginger root for up to three months.
A few cautions are in order. Since ginger helps thin the blood, don?t take it prior to surgery. Ginger may interfere with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and dietary iron, and may actually cause an upset stomach if too much is taken. Those taking blood thinners, barbiturates, beta-blockers, insulin or diabetes medications should consult their doctor about ginger since it could conflict with these medicines. Ginger may stimulate uterine contractions so pregnant women should be careful how much ginger they ingest.
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